The hardest times of the year to be away from your family are around the holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are occasions that are usually spent around a large number of family members, so they are often associated with nostalgic moments that only make it harder to be away.
When I lived in New Zealand for nearly a year, I missed spending both Easter and Thanksgiving with my family. Instead, I was with people whom I’d only known a few weeks or months.
Getting through those times on the other side of the world was a challenge, especially because Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in New Zealand. To mitigate my homesickness, I tried to create a celebration or gathering that felt as familiar as possible.
Plans with friends
When away from your family, it’s important to try to spend time with the next-closest group of people to you: your friends.
It’s a good idea to actually make plans to see your friends because they probably won’t just be sitting on the couch watching Netflix on Christmas. They will also be trying to figure out what to do for the holidays, so the sooner you ask them, the sooner you can get a plan locked in and not have to worry about being all alone.
This can be somewhat difficult if you’re new to an area. When I first got to New Zealand, I didn’t know a single other person. It took time to develop quality friends and have a solid group of people I could count on. But even if you have friends whom you’d probably feel more comfortable referring to as acquaintances, it’s still better to spend the holidays with them than by yourself.
No one you know is going to want you to spend the holidays by yourself, either. So even if you don’t consider someone a close friend, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask if they have plans around the holidays because chances are, if they can bring you along to whatever they have going on, they will.
Schedule time to talk to family
Holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving go by fast. One minute you’re opening presents or eating turkey and the next you’re falling asleep with a drink in your hand.
That’s why it’s also important to schedule a specific time to talk to your family. You’ll regret it if you lose track of time and miss out on your opportunity to connect with your loved ones during an important time of the year. (I promise your mom will appreciate it.)
Also, figure out how you’re going to talk to them. Skype? Phone? If you’re international, you may want to try WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger (my preferred method), especially if you’re just making a call.
Just be sure to coordinate a time to speak to each person who’s important to you. Or, if they’ll all be together, you can always plan on having them pass the phone around.
Make sure you have your comfort food
Pretty much every holiday has a food associated with it. For instance, Christmas is known for peppermint flavored candy, ham, and sweets. On Thanksgiving, everyone eats turkey. When it comes to Easter, it’s all about hardboiled eggs and chocolate rabbits.
Of course, everyone has their own special food items or treats that they associate with specific holidays. In my family, we make cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning after we open presents. So if I were to ever be away from my family on Christmas, I’d make sure to have a cinnamon roll that morning. As soon as I bite into that gooey, frosting-covered roll, I’ll be reminded of the good times with my family without feeling like I’m missing out.
Holidays away are tough — there’s no doubt about it. Try to occupy your time on those days with friends and activities, but remember, it’s still important to stay connected to your loved ones. In this day and age, pretty much anyone from anywhere is only a phone call away.